KANSAS CITY, Mo. — On Tuesday, the Kansas City Chiefs held their first practice of organized team activities and Cairo Santos attempted a multitude of kicks from 33 yards out, as opposed to 20 yards out. That’s where NFL teams will be trying extra points this fall.
When the NFL in mid-May officially approved the competition committee’s proposal to move extra points back 13 yards, there were no long discussions about it, at least between kicker Cairo Santos and holder Dustin Colquitt.
Instead, the emphasis has been on accepting the change, and getting accustomed to it. That process started Tuesday, when the Chiefs held their first practice of organized team activities and Santos attempted a multitude of kicks from 33 yards out, as opposed to 20 yards out.
“We went out there and put it right in the middle — this is the windiest day you can imagine in Kansas City, and he banged home 12 of them,” Colquitt said. “He played soccer his whole life — he’s used to wind, he’s used to big game-time situations … this is one of those in-between 30 and 35 yard field goals that you’ve got to hit.”
The NFL, which approved the rule change by a 30-2 vote, experimented with longer extra points before last season, moving the spot of the ball from the 2-yard line to the 15-yard line. Santos went five for five.
“It’s basically what we had during preseason last year, so I’m okay with it,” Chiefs coach Andy Reid said. “I don’t mind it. I think it puts emphasis on special teams, that’s always good. We try to put emphasis on it and this adds to it from a league standpoint. I’ll be interested to see how it all works out.”
The Chiefs, of course, have one of the more highly-regarded special-teams coaches in the league in Dave Toub, who Reid says also welcomes the rule change.
“As a special-teams coach, you like to have plays that challenge the special teams, and so this puts more emphasis on it,” Reid said.
Reid said he understands the impetus for the change, which will make extra points a little less certain, as there was a 99.6 percent make ratio on extra points last season. In comparison, kickers made 95.3 percent of their field goals from the general area of the new extra-point distance (30-to-35 yards out).
“It’s not the 99.6, but you’re going to be probably somewhere between 90 and 94 percent from that area there,” Reid said. “I still think those are good numbers.”
Reid, it appears, has already started thinking about when it makes sense to go for two-point conversions and when it makes sense to attempt the longer extra point, as he was asked this week whether the rule change might tempt him to go for two more.
“I don’t think it will much because you’re at the 2 (yard-line),” Reid said. “Now, if you’re playing a thousand games, statistically you could probably work that out, where you’re (converting) 43 percent with your two-point plays, you’re (converting) 90-whatever percent plus with your extra points, and you can go through that and do that with your whole statistical analysis. But we’re not playing that many games.”
Reid expects defenses to be coming after the longer kicks, however, since teams now have a chance to earn two points if they return a blocked extra point or a failed two-point conversion for a touchdown in a situation where the ball used to be whistled dead after a block.
“That rush is going to be a violent rush coming in there, more so than at the two,” Reid said.
But if any of this fazes Santos, the second-year pro who made all 38 of his extra-point attempts last season, it certainly didn’t show this week.
“We just have to adjust,” Santos said. “They’ll make the rules and we just have to keep kicking. And we went through it last preseason, so it’s not something completely strange or out of nowhere. We’ll just be out here practicing and getting comfortable with that feel of lining up.
“Now we’ll be kicking from the 23-yard line instead of the 10-yard line, so it’s just getting comfortable with that feeling. It’s the same thing, it’s the same kick. So now we just have to do it for one point.”
Not that there isn’t an added level of difficulty.
“I think (on) the 20-yarder, you can get away with miss-hits,” Santos conceded. “They’ll still go in, but (from) 33, it starts to get in that awkward range where a miss-hit might not go in. So you just have to keep getting consistent.”
That’s why it will be crucial for Santos to continue to build chemistry with his holder, Colquitt, and whoever wins the ongoing long-snapping battle between Andrew East and James Winchester.
“We’ve been kicking together since we’ve been here in Kansas City, and so we’re in a good rhythm right now.” Santos said. “We don’t know when they’ll make a decision, but both guys are excellent and make me feel really comfortable.”
Regardless of who wins the long-snapping job, however, Santos plans on remaining perfect on extra points as long as he can, rule change and all.
“I think in the long run, it will be great for kickers,” Santos said. “Now you’ve got to be more consistent than ever. It will be good and add more value to kickers, I think.”